Western Australia's Royalties for Regions program: a policy response to growth, regional neglect, and perceived disempowerment

Jan Willem van Staden, Fiona Haslam McKenzie

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

6 Citations (Web of Science)


Under the right conditions, compounding socio-political and economic change can dramatically alter government policy. From 2000, Western Australia, a resource-rich jurisdiction, experienced significant change owing to a once-in-a-generation resources boom, which forced a break with earlier development approaches. In 2008, regional interventionism returned to the State via the State Government's Royalties for Regions program. Departing from the neo-liberal tradition, the program allocated 25 per cent of the State's royalty income to non-metropolitan regions, over and above existing regional allocations, and its success remains disputed. While it is easy to question the program retrospectively, the socio-economic and political circumstances from 2000 to 2008 reveal a “perfect storm” of conditions enabling the transition from neo-liberalism to interventionism in regional development. This paper sets out to understand the multi-faceted conditions that enabled the dramatic paradigm shift embodied by the program. To this end, it examines the State's rural–urban settlement dichotomy, its staples economy, and the policy context leading up to the program. Following that, the paper proposes a causal framework mapping out the factors driving and rationalising the program. These factors are then examined in detail and include perceived rural voter disenchantment, ineffectual regional development policy, the State's mining boom, inadequate regional development funding, the contrasting fortunes of two regions (illustrative of the impact of growth, and the lack thereof), and the political manoeuvring during the 2008 election. Finally, the paper concludes by considering how the conversion of these conditions resulted in the State's most significant regional policy redirection in decades.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)384-398
Number of pages15
JournalGeographical Research
Issue number4
Early online date3 Jul 2019
Publication statusPublished - 1 Nov 2019


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